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Family Voice

Family Voice

There’s this thing that I believe every family has. I don’t actually know what to call it.  If we were having a conversation, I wouldn’t be able to imitate it.

But I know it when I hear it. I hear it in shopping malls, in crowds, when families get into and out of their homes and cars, at resataurants, and when I’m a guest in someone’s home. I’ve heard it for years in my home. And I have one too.

What is it? This isn’t the scientific name for it at all, but in my head I call it family voice. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the tone of voice you would never use except around the people closest to you. It contains hints of expectation, exasperation, frustration and quiet fatigue. Add in tones of command, whining and a touch of rudeness, and you’ve got family voice. Sometimes it’s strong. Sometimes it’s subtle. But all the time it’s reserved for the people you live with.

If you used it at work, you’d be shunned or maybe even get fired. If you used it in your social circle, you’d have no friends. You’re likely distant enough as a grown adult to not use it on your parents or siblings anymore. Chances are you only pull it out in the square box you inhabit with a handful of other people we call family.

And ultimately, it’s disrespectful. That’s why you would never use it on other people. But somehow on the people we love most we feel free to pull it out regularly.  I don’t know why.  We just do.

So if you want to increase the level of respect you show for each other at home, try this: eliminate your family voice. I know, it’s hard. Because I’m convinced we don’t even hear it in ourselves anymore after a period of years.

When I catch myself, this is what I do: I pretend my wife and kids are perfect strangers, someone from work, or a friend I haven’t seen in a while.

Why? Because then I would be kind, courteous, charming and engaged.

Which is what they deserve. Every day.

Try it today. Speak to your family as if they weren’t your family. You might be amazed at what happens to the levels of respect and delight in your home. (And let us know how it goes.)

In the meantime, what do you think causes family voice? What makes it worse? What makes it better?

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.

6 Comments

  1. bjb@hbcarlington.com'

    With me it comes out when I’m tired and frustrated. Usually my kids get the brunt of it. I never really thought about it being disrespectful but totally true. Definitely encouraged to put an end to it. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. snlkelley@comcast.net'

    Thanks for emailing this Carol. Yeah, we have one too. This will hopefully make us more aware to have a better tone, one of respect with our family.

    Reply
  3. hillspride@aol.com'

    This info is so true. We sometimes show our ‘Old self’ to the ones closest to us and afterwards I know I am convicted by the Holy Spirit to go back and apoligize for my actions. Pay attention to the promting of the Holy Spirit and follow through with His nudging and Your family Voice will fade. God Bless to all.

    Reply
  4. szelmer@nb.sympatico.ca'

    I used to think that I spoke “that way” in front of my family because, heck, they’ll take me as I am, no matter what…they’re stuck with me right? But then I realized that I am modelling behaviors/attitudes/values and that stopped me in my tracks. Its a work in progress, but the payoff is huge.

    Reply
  5. jbrady@madisonparkchurch.org'

    It’s no wonder people grow up with such a warped sense of who God really is considering that kids usually form their image of God around a parental figure. It is good for us all to pray as David did, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (ps. 141:3)… especially at home where we are so closely watched by the eyes that matter the most, our kids.

    Reply
  6. mdik@execpc.com'

    I believe that your family deserves your BEST voice. A family unit is where your BEST manners should be used. We need to feel safe and respected in our family home.

    Reply

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